Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Frenchwoman's Bedroom

Appearances can be deceiving.  I was reminded of that the other day while reading a friend's copy of The Frenchwoman's Bedroom by Mary-Sargent Ladd. During my initial flipping through, I saw a photo of Jacqueline de Ribes, a woman whose style I greatly admire.  Just look at her, above, wearing that fabulous silk caftan not to mention her perfectly made-up face and coiffed hair.  And yet, when I turned the page to see photos of her bedroom, I was a little surprised.  Not that there is anything wrong with her bedroom (see above), but it just wasn't what I was expecting.  I suppose that I assumed her bedroom would be brighter and layered with matching fabrics.  But it wasn't.  Well, as they say, you should never assume anything.

The entire book is really a gem with loads of photos showing chic French women in their homes.  (How refreshing that many of these women actually had wrinkles on their faces!  That's reassuring, don't you think?)  Their bedrooms are equally as chic and are filled with Porthault linen, Braquenié fabric, and all kinds of pretty things.  And while some bedrooms come as no surprise- the late Andrée Putman's bedroom was contemporary looking, as would be expected- there are still some like de Ribes' room that were unexpected.  Who would have guessed that the Marquise de Ravenel, photographed in her floral housecoat while holding her wire-haired dachshund, would have decorated her bedroom in such a crisp, orderly, and surprisingly modern-looking way!

Madame Sylvie Boutet de Monvel, daughter of famous aesthete Bernard Boutet de Monvel, lived in her father's home for her entire life. She maintained some of her father's decor, including the painted cupboards in her dressing room. Each cabinet was painted with women's clothing, including shoes, hats, and fans.

The bedroom of La Princesse Jeanne Marie de Broglie boasts sofa and curtain fabric from Geoffrey Bennison.

The elegant Mademoiselle Jacqueline Delubac had an equally elegant bedroom with furniture by Jansen. Paintings by Vuillard and Picasso stood alongside Porthault sheets.

You know that La Baronne Antoinette de Gunzbourg's bedroom would be cozy considering that she, like a few other women in the book, was photographed with her dog. Much of the bedroom was covered in a Chinoiserie print fabric from Lauer.

Madame Irith Landeau's bedroom is tranquil and warm.

The late Andrée Putman's bed was screened behind gray mosquito netting.

I adore La Marquise de Ravenel's bedroom which boasts a mixture of graphic prints. The Marquise needlepointed her bed, rug, and bed throw pillows.

La Baronne Edmond de Rothschild chose the famous Verrieres fabric for her bedroom.

La Baronne Gérard de Waldner hired her friend, designer François Catroux, to decorate her bedroom. Designer and client chose two floral prints from both Braquenié and Le Menach to create a flowery, feminine room.

All photos from The Frenchwoman's Bedroom by Mary-Sargent Ladd.


  1. I'm neither elegant nor French, but Jacqueline Delubac's light and airy bedroom would suit me to a T!

    Since these are the bedrooms of French women, I assume Monsieur had his own chambers!

    April, Just Verte Style

    1. April, It is inded a lovely bedroom!

  2. It's always interesting, as well as instructive, to see which rooms have
    become "dated" and which stand the test of time. Andrée Putman's room
    was very likely considered cutting edge at the time, and today it is distinctly
    a period piece. Yet many of these stylish women would very likely have less
    in the way of profusion and pattern, were they to be decorating their bedrooms today. There is one room having unassailable authority, and that
    is the black and white toile /black lacquer furnishings design for La Baronne Antoinette de Gunzbourg. Superb.

    1. Putman's bedroom is very much of that era in contemporary design. de Gunzbourg's bedroom was exquisite, although I am still hung up on de Ravenel's needlepointed bed.

  3. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Wonderful book. Many of the subjects are surprisingly and innocently frank, telling us whether or not their husbands share their beds, if they sleep in the nude, who makes the bed, etc. Several of them have bathtubs in or open to the bedroom. I wonder if they assumed that nobody they knew would ever read the book?

    Mme. de Ribes' room is a surprise. Where one would have expected sleek post-war Jansen, we find funky Napoleon III that outdoes anything by Castaing.

    1. The subjects' frankness did surprise me, I have to say. It seemed more in keeping with today's social media culture where TMI is the norm!

      I can't decide if it is de Ribes' bed that surprise me the most? Or perhaps the entire room as a whole? I'm just not sure!

  4. I would like to eat macarons in those beds.

    1. Why, of course! And with champagne, too!

  5. Yes, the Gunzbourg bedroom is quite chic. However, I am disappointed (and surprised) with the not-quite-pulled-together Rothschild bedroom.

    1. Dare I disagree with TDC? The Rothschild bedroom is in a simple Brittany cottage with plate glass windows looking out at the sea. Anything more pulled together would have looked out of place. I think this room has aged much better than many of her rival Marie Helene's more baroque creations.

    2. I did not even bother to include Marie Helene's bedroom photos as the room wasn't terribly interesting to me. It was, as you said, quite baroque.

      I like the use of Verriere fabric in the Rothschild bedroom.

    3. I can just imagine lying in that all-blue room, wrapped up in that fur (what is it?), watching a storm come in over the steel-gray sea and clouds . . . marvelous.

      On the other hand, the idea of a folie a deux with Vuillard's Christ gazing down is a little disquieting.

    4. Anonymous10:07 PM

      Okay this post is years old, and I'm guessing the confusion stems from the book, but Mlle Delubac's "Vuillard's Christ" is a lot more likely to be Vollard's Christ; their work being poles apart stylistically and thematically. Baronne de Gunzbourg's empire pendule I would add is sublime!

  6. Anonymous9:54 PM

    One of my very favorite books of all time!!
    I learned how to "iron" beautiful linen sheets while on the bed! From this book! I found the most amazing embroidered French linen sheets from a "trousseau" never used! (she was "saving them"!!) 25 years ago in New York from a dealer!

    This is one of the great decorating books of all time! Timeless; romantic decorating in the "good old days"! True elegance!
    I find it fascinating that they are so frank; I think they didn't care "who read the book"!!
    They were "sure of themselves"; confident, and honest!

    Not at all like the "branding, strident, climbers who populate much of the media today!" "Million dollar decorators"! EEEK! Elegance is teetering on extinction!

    (don't I sound like a cranky old bat!)


    ps Maybe April is not French; but she is indeed elegant if that bedroom appeals to her!

    "Verriers" is my all-time favorite fabric; and here is an instance of its incredible appeal! (the dust ruffle with the border doubled.....or tripled!) Oh! my heart!

  7. Favorite = Andree Putnam!!

  8. Having enlarged the image, I see now that Madame de Gunzbourg's toile wasn't black and white at all, but rather a mixture
    of blues and ochres, against which she placed all that black and gold lacquer and/or penwork furniture. It's more subtle than
    a strict black and white scheme, isn't it? Thanks for sharing this particular blast from the past.

    1. There is a photo in the book that better captures the colorations of the toile. It is indeed a mixture of blues and ochres. Lovely!

  9. This is one of the great decorating books of all time! Keep it up

  10. Some of the bedrooms are breathtaking, in the truest sense of the word. So much fabric and curtains, I would simply get no air to breathe. But beautiful in the photos. Regards - S